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Vincent Price Museum: Eight Decades of Los Angeles Youth Culture

Ceceilia Lopez, Photojournalist

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Monica Orozco deMonica Photo
art; monica orozco; demonicaphoto; VPAM

The Vincent Art Price Museum featured “Tastemakers and Earthshakers: Notes from Los Angeles Youth Culture, 1943-2016,” an exhibition that traversed eight decades, including millennials’ form of expression through style, music and art.

The museum exhibition ran from Oct. 15, 2016 until Feb. 25, 2017, and was free to the public. The Vincent Art Price Museum, located in Monterey Park in East Los Angeles, frequently offers a variety of remarkable art to admire and experience, ranging from paintings, documentary photography, music video installations and historical documents.

At the entrance of the recent “Tastemakers and Earthshakers” exhibition was an installation of the common pachuco and pachuca dress. Pachucos and pachucas were a subculture of young Chicanos and Mexican Americans that were associated with the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles. The wardrobe serves as an embodiment of this youth group and their form of expression through these outfits. The paintings and photographs of the pachuco dress illustrated how this fashion was an essential part of the subculture’s identity.

Another feature of the exhibition was a variety of different historical documents including newspapers, photographs, notebooks and flyers detailing the fashion trends and culture of Los Angeles through the decades.

Monica Orozco deMonica Photo
art; monica orozco; demonicaphoto; VPAM

“Many of the artworks included in the exhibition reference specific historical events … so including diverse media allows us to flesh out that narrative within the exhibition,” said Pilar Tompkins Rivas, the curator of the show. “All of these sources in the exhibition give the viewer a new perspective to experience these narratives.”

Monica Orozco deMonica Photo
art; monica orozco; demonicaphoto; VPAM

Another room of the exhibition featured photographs and paintings of youth resistance groups from Los Angeles through the years. Many of the photos were of the Chicano youth protesting. In one image, a group of young Chicanos is carrying a poster stating “Chicano Power” to express the impact of their voice. On the wall painted in large blue letters topped with ice imagery was the message, “Cause I’m brown, I’m not the other color, so police think, they have the authority, to kill a minority.” These words serve as a reflection of how the youth felt at the time about the police. What’s expressed in this art piece is something relevant in our society regarding the ongoing issue of police brutality and their abuse of authority over minority groups.

Monica Orozco deMonica Photo
art; monica orozco; demonicaphoto; VPAM

Monica OrozcoMonica Photo
art; monica orozco; demonicaphoto; VPAM

The goal of these art pieces was to vividly illustrate how one’s form of expression can contribute to their social identity. According to Rivas, the exhibition served as a way to empower youth through acknowledging that their voice is important and can have a huge impact in the world by unifying together.

“We hope that the exhibition [provided] an opportunity for young people to see themselves reflected within the museum context, to know that their experiences are valid, and to feel that their forms of personal expression are artistically and culturally relevant,” Rivas said.

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Vincent Price Museum: Eight Decades of Los Angeles Youth Culture